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Insights from the 106th Optimist International Convention in Niagara Falls, Ontario

The 106th Optimist International Convention, held in the scenic Niagara Falls, Ontario, was a gathering of committed leaders and enthusiastic members, all driven by a shared passion for community service and optimism. Attendees gained valuable insights and updates from various sessions, including an impactful report from Executive Director Cheryl Brenn and updates from Optimist International President Tracy Huxley.


Operational Update: 5 Key Areas of Future Focus


Executive Director Cheryl Brenn outlined a strategic plan focused on five key areas to ensure the organization's growth and sustainability.


1. Engaging More People in Service:

- The traditional club model, while effective, is not the only way to engage individuals in service. Optimist International is looking to expand its Learning Management System (LMS) to create a subscription model that shares inspiring content. This initiative aims to subsidize the club model, providing alternative avenues for people to get involved.


2. Impactful Programs:

- This summer, the Oratorical World Championship and the Junior Optimist International (JOI) convention will be combined, allowing young people from both programs to connect. New ideas for character education and youth empowerment are being explored, including the pilot of the Optimists Working for Learning Success (OWLS) program. Optimist International will be the primary organization known for supporting a safe, comfortable and productive learning environment for elementary school students, supporting students at three different levels: Fundraising, Volunteers, Programs. More info on OWLS to come.


3. Being the Voice of Optimism:

- Optimist International is focusing on reclaiming its identity by educating and inspiring others about the power of optimism. The "BEEattitudes" initiative is part of this effort, along with creating engaging content to spread the message.


4. Effective Operational Processes:

- Enhancing efficiency through automation is a priority. The launch of AI receptionist and chatbot, Olivia, marks a step towards better member interactions. The website has been cleaned up, outdated documents removed, and the member resource center is being reorganized to be more intuitive.


5. Sustainable Revenue Growth:

- Diversifying revenue streams is critical. Optimist International is exploring subscription models and updating its supplier program. A new partnership with Lizzard Apparel, an Optimist-owned company, will provide more dynamic merchandise options. You can preview this merchandise at OptimistMerch.com. The Bee Store, targeting a broader market with positive messages and graphics, is another innovative initiative. You can preview this merchandise using the following link: https://beeanoptimist.lizardapstore.com/


Key Takeaways from the Optimist International Convention Town Hall


The recent Optimist International (OI) Convention Town Hall brought forward several significant updates and initiatives aimed at strengthening the organization's core values, operational efficiency, and member engagement.


Introduction of New Core Values


At Optimist International, our Core Values represent the way we believe in the transformative power of hope, positive thinking, and action. Our commitment to bringing out the best in youth, communities and ourselves is guided by four core values that represent our foundational beliefs. We utilize these to inspire and drive our mission.


  1. OPTIMISM

Optimism is at the heart of everything we do. We foster a shared sense of hope and resilience. We encourage positive action within ourselves and our communities and persist through difficulties with the belief we can create meaningful change. Ensuring that we and those we serve can reach our fullest potential.


2. RESPECT

Through respectful interactions we value the unique contributions and inherent worth of every individual. We honor all people with dignity, compassion, and care by embracing diversity and fostering a culture of inclusion.


3. INTEGRITY

We uphold the highest standards of honesty, ethics, and transparency in everything we do. We are accountable for our actions and follow through on our commitments. We conduct ourselves in all actions by doing what is right, even when it is difficult. We set a positive example and inspire others to follow.


4. GLOBAL COMMUNITY

We embrace diversity, interconnectedness, and shared humanity across all cultures, beliefs, and borders. Our commitment to the global community encourages us to think beyond local solutions and consider the broader impact of our actions. By nurturing a spirit of cooperation and empathy, we work towards a better world together.


Optimist International is dedicated to improving lives, together with respect, integrity, a sense of global community, and unwavering optimism, we can build a future filled with hope and positive vision for all.


These values will be prominently featured on the OI website in the next few weeks, reflecting the organization's renewed commitment to these principles.


Formation of Three New Ad Hoc Committees


1. Readminister Districts: This committee will evaluate the role and structure of districts, focusing on what they offer to members and how they should function.

2. Vision Statement Alignment: Tasked with revisiting and possibly revising the Vision statement to ensure it aligns with the new values statement.

3. ICD 135 - Awards and Recognition Redevelopment: This committee aims to better align awards and recognition programs with the priorities of clubs.


Regional and Administrative Updates


- Nepal District: Renamed to the Asia District, reflecting its expanded geographical scope.

- Bylaws Cleanup: Efforts have been made to improve the consistency, grammar, and organization of the bylaws. These updates were voted on during the business session and passed.


Discussion Highlights and Member Feedback


- CARE Program: Feedback from this program will be reviewed to make improvements, with potential expansion to districts.

- OWLS Program: Still in the pilot phase, with materials in development. The Community Outreach Committee will work on its implementation next year.

- Optimist Brand Recognition: Concerns were raised about the relevance of the Essay program in the age of AI. While it remains the #1 program for clubs, its impact and participation will be reviewed to ensure resources are well-spent.

- Business Plan and Strategic Planning: Members stressed the importance of having a clear business plan with 1, 3, and 5-year projections. The Executive Director's report highlighted ongoing work on the future focus plan, emphasizing the need to balance legacy aspects with new initiatives and measurable success.


The Town Hall provided a platform for discussing these pivotal changes and gathering valuable member input, ensuring that Optimist International continues to evolve and meet the needs of its community.


Challenges and Changes Ahead


Despite the positive momentum, some challenges were acknowledged. Optimist International headquarters in St. Louis is working with a developer on a potential hotel project, awaiting city approval of the sale. The insurance market remains tough, with limited carriers willing to take on the organization's policies. Efforts are being made to be more proactive in risk management to avoid legal battles. It was noted that the number one insurance claim for clubs was related to 10x10 Pop-up tents not being secured! So secure those tents!


Change is often difficult, and the organization recognizes the need to focus on key areas to move forward effectively. The announcement of CFO Connie Pellock's retirement at the end of the year underscores the ongoing transitions within the leadership.


Celebrating Success and Community


The convention also celebrated successes, such as the South Carolina District achieving the highest percentage of members in attendance! The convention ambassador received free registration for next year as a reward for their dedication. Additionally, Stan Rhodes completed the Optimist Leadership Academy, and an article detailing his experience will be forthcoming.


The vote on Optimist International bylaws was another highlight, with 897 votes cast and 869 in favor, showcasing the strong support for the proposed changes. The changes to the bylaws were more a restatement of the bylaws to clean up inconsistent language and create a more cohesive document that will be the foundation for potential updates moving forward.


New Core Values and Membership Initiatives


2023-24 Optimist International President Tracy Huxley introduced the new core values to the larger audience, emphasizing the organization's commitment to a global community grounded in optimism, respect, and integrity. In addition, a new member promise and Club officer promise have been introduced, allowing for online participation, making it more accessible. This new member and club officer promises will replace the induction and installation scripts currently used by clubs.


New Member Promise

If you agree please respond with “I do”

Do you promise to always do your best to live by the teachings of the Optimist Creed?

Do you promise to support the activities of your Club, District and Optimist International to the best of your ability?

Do you promise to be a good steward of the values of Optimist International by conducting yourself with respect and integrity?

Will you approach life from a place of optimism?

Will you be ever aware that your place in the world influences our global community?


Field Rep

We hope you will embrace these promises and explore your membership to its fullest potential and bring out the best all around you. On behalf of your Club and Optimist International I am happy to welcome you to the world of Optimism.


Club Officer Promise

If you agree please respond with “I do”

Do you promise to carry out the duties of your office to the best of your abilities?

Do you agree to follow the policies and bylaws of your Club and Optimist International?


Field Rep

On behalf of Optimist International, I am happy to say that you are now installed to your respective offices.


The Convention was a testament to the organization's resilience and forward-thinking approach. With clear strategic goals and a renewed commitment to core values, Optimist International is poised to continue making a significant impact on communities worldwide.


The 106th Optimist International Convention in Niagara Falls was also a vibrant gathering filled with memorable activities. The South Carolina Optimist District proudly secured second place at Trivia Night, showcasing their knowledge and teamwork. Governor-elect Bonnie Jean Sherbert led an insightful workshop titled "Protecting Yourself Online". The convention was attended by 16 members, including three enthusiastic first-timers from the Palmetto and Rock Hill Central City clubs. Attendees also enjoyed a delightful district dinner at the Rainforest Cafe, fostering camaraderie and connection. The convention was not just about formal sessions; it was a time of creating lasting memories with Optimist friends from around the world, all set against the stunning backdrop of Niagara Falls. We hope you each will consider attending the 107th Optimist International convention in St Louis at the end of June 2025.

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